Tall Tales Storytelling is a project initiated by Kaneez Surka and Michael Burns. She’s an improviser and comedic actress, he’s a film-maker and teacher; together they share a passion for stories. Tall Tales showcases first-person, non-fiction stories presented by the people who experienced them. They host recurring storytelling events, where narratives are presented so as to move and inspire an audience. Here’s how the Tall Tales process works; if you have an interesting story to tell, all you have to do is write it down and send it in to Tall Tales. Your story will be picked if Kaneez and Michael believe it has performance potential. They will help you refine your writing skills, and work with you on perfecting the narrative. Once the story looks good on paper, its rehearsal time! Kaneez and Michael will coach you into performing your story, so that the experience is as enriching for an audience, as it is for you. It’s something like a stand-up comedy session, except that the stories need not be funny and that genuine experiences are narrated. Why and how do they do what they do? My conversation with Kaneez explains. What prompted Michael and you to start Tall Tales? Did you start out with a plan and specific vision? It was Michael who actually introduced me to the world of live storytelling, and I was absolutely taken up by it. He was a huge fan of a radio show called ‘The American Life’ which aired live stories in the U.S. We were also inspired by ‘The Moth’, a Ney York based non-profit dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Right from the get go, we had a very strong vision of this being an ongoing project with recurring events. Our goal is to create a quasi-performance style show, where participants need not be professional performers, but the product must most definitely be well rehearsed and polished. You both spend a lot of time taking people’s submissions from mere scribbles on a paper, to words that can move an audience. What drives you and Michael to do so? From the start that quality has been our foremost priority; we do whatever it takes to work on stories and insure that the standard of our event is upheld every time. We work on the participants’ writing skills and as well as their performance. These are both equally important in live storytelling. Is it easy to find people in Mumbai who are willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and talk about their own lives? Are people open to the help, advice and coaching you offer them? Surprisingly (and this is a good surprise) we receive plenty of submissions! I didn’t expect so many people to want to share their stories in a public forum. Our story tellers have again and again shown the ability to be open, candid and most importantly vulnerable when sharing their stories which according to Michael and I are the basis for a great story. It isn’t an easy process, especially when “turning over” something private to a stranger. So some participants are understandably hesitant. We remind the storytellers that there are multiple good ways to tell a story. But there are some general guidelines that help turn a good story into a great one. I see our role as helping to move good stories into that "great" territory. What do you think motivates people to participate? Simple isn’t it? We all are in search of stories; we find them in books or movies, sometimes in a conversation with a stranger on a bus, and sometimes in a tweet. Interestingly, we also each have a story to tell; some of us spend a lifetime in silence. While others, find a way to share. Have a story to share? Send in your submissions to [email protected]. To know more about Tall Tales Storytelling and for event details log onto their Facebook page. You can watch and listen to recordings on their website!